PR E SE N C E girl power - 9. November 2011, free
Watercolours - Chelsea Jade Photography Alex Mcvinnie
Red Hair Illustration by Henrietta Harris
Most illustrations featured in this issue of PRESENCE are by Henrietta Harris apart from Sarah Larnach illustrations, please check the credits in the spine.
We claim no rights to the photos, artwork and articles given by contributors.
ÂŠ 2011 PRESENCE magazine all rights reserved.
Welcome to PRESENCE 9. This issue is girl power. It has been a blast to see it all come together. I have so many strong and talented women in my life who inspire me. I hope you enjoy learning about the ones in this issue. I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the people involved in the making of this issue: Chelsea Metcalf, Alex Mcvinnie-Maidment, Matt Monk, Madeline North, Kerry Won, Henrietta Harris, Will Pollard, Priya, Anji and Madeleine Sami, Florence Noble, Olivia Young, Kimbra Johnson, Owen Behan, Skye Pathare, Yeshe Dawa, Danny Pato, Samuel Gove, Reuben Theobald, Emma Shaw, Elise Brinkman, Sarah Houbolt, Anna Schlotjes, Andrew Tidball, Sarah Larnach and Matthew Crawley. To my friends and family, especially my parents Judith & Gary Gotlieb, for their ongoing support.
Greta Gotlieb 3.
Artwork by Henrietta Harris
You can also read, listen and interact with this issue online: www.presencemagazine.co.nz If you would like to be involved with the next issue of Presence please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Watercolours - Chelsea Jade the perfection exception - Article by Matt Monk - Photography by Alex Mcvinnie
The Sami Sisters - Priya, Anji and Madeleine three times the charm - Article by Olivia Young - Photography by Florence Noble
Kimbra - Kimbra Johnson no cause to settle down - Article by Skye Pathare - Photography by Owen Behan
Circus Performer - Sarah Houbolt All Things Weird and Wonderful - Article by Anna Schlotjes - Photography by Greta Gotlieb
Artist - Henrietta Harris TAKE A LONG, HARD LOOK AT YOURSELF AND THINK ABOUT WHAT YOUâ€™VE DONE - Article by Will Pollard - Self portrait kindly made on request
CD Reviews CHEESE ON TOAST CD REVIEWS - Articles by Andrew Tidball - Artwork by Sarah Larnach 4.
WATERCOLOURS -the perfection exception-
Article by Matt Monk Photography by Alex Mcvinnie
“You’ve hit on an interesting dilemma I’ve been facing... this is my first rodeo, in a matter of speaking.” This was the response from Chelsea Metcalf, AKA Chelsea Jade, AKA Watercolours when I told her I thought my older brother would like her sound, as at first listen I thought it could work on a café compilation album. It’s not the nicest thing to say to a young female singer with pipes that you rarely hear from someone who isn’t a 1950s black female soul singer. But Chelsea is an upfront and honest person herself, so luckily she didn’t walk out of the interview there and then.
“... I don’t want to become that fucking dreamy princess... whatever. I just don’t want to be that.” “I’ve come up against these inner quandaries as to how I feel like I should be catering to other people’s taste, when really what I want to do is what I want to do, and as such I’m not married to a particular sound.” A well thought out impromptu response as far as on-the-spot questions go. We’re at Verona on K Road talking about her first release ‘Under’ – the easiest track to find by the singer, which was released back in November 2010. She’s quick to be humble, saying that it was never formally released. “But this is the thing... out of all of the things I’ve been recording, it’s my most recent one. I like it the most. At this point.” I should point out that when she says “this point”, we’re talking August -ish 2011. This is a point where Chelsea is about to head overseas. 8.
A point where she is thinking existentially about her music. A point where she hasn’t been rewriting, rerecording or replaying her music in front of wider crowds, strange and international as they may very well become. This is the “point” where Watercolours is its namesake. “It’s to do with that whole shift thing. It all seeps into itself and doesn’t have any defined lines or boundaries.” Chelsea is a fiddler when it comes to her recordings, which leads us to coincidentally agree on something that’s been on her mind when it comes to the tracks she’s been laying down. I tell her that when looking into more songs she’s been quote-unquote releasing, I came across a video of her performing on bFM and was surprised at how good this livestudio recording sounded. Half because of the impressive production values (which can probably be credited to the radio station’s mics) and half because it displayed such a different feel to what ‘Under’ seems to offer. “I feel like I’m taking everything apart and putting it back together again. Like a watchmaker, I’m trying to make it tick right. And while I want everything to be consistent, I think the consistent thing is that I’m going to be in it. And I feel like you saying that about ‘Under’ makes me feel okay about that. Because I’m not so worried about anyone expecting something particular from ‘Under’ and expecting that to be the rest of what it is.” As you do, I ask her when the album is coming out. 9.
“Oh, I’m not putting out an album.” I get confused at this point, as I’m sure heard that she had something coming out in November or December. “I kind of feel like the CD as a format is a flagging kind of concept. I want to make a journal with a double EP as a theme. The CD would be purely to sate the needs of the distribution people or the people that have to have CDs. You’d buy the journal and get a download code.”
“I’m being encouraged by people... it’s not a pipe dream, it’s a real option.” I ask her if this is all confirmed, or just a high-concept concept. She says that the only thing that really is set in stone is the recording of ‘Under’ and the aforementioned bFM video. There’s an explanation to that answer which Chelsea speaks of as almost serendipitous in a dark, anti-romance, romantic kind of way. Her teetering on the subject goes back to what she was saying about how she feels like a watchmaker – she’s almost trying to reconstruct her answers, unknowingly striving for perfection even in the most casual of instances. “While I’ve been making this album I’ve had to stop listening to new music. Because every time I hear something I like, I want to tailor what I’ve written to that sound.” So does it, or has it, become a chore? “It becomes shrapnel. I have to become really insular because otherwise it’s going to take ten years to finish.”
I have to be fair and say that while the written conversation may cause Chelsea to come off as a perfectionist, in actuality that just isn’t the case. Everything seems to be conceptual. Any idea can be possible. There’s a distinct line between indecision and perfection, and it appears that Chelsea walks that line determined not to fall on either side. While she might not know exactly what it is she wants, she knows what she does not want. “I have this aversion of sinking into this cliché. And I feel like I don’t want to become that fucking dreamy princess... whatever. I just don’t want to be that.” There’s a difference between the live performances and recording efforts of Watercolours. In her own words, Chelsea describes the live band as being very malleable. The roster is one that rotates, and the contributions to the performance of each track are collaborative. Chelsea writes, but everyone plays. Chelsea pens over the contributors’ pencils. From here the conversation becomes less about questions and more about insight. There are more than two people present at this interview and we start to chum around, dissecting social media, social commentary and the unfortunate fidelity we have on it. About forty minutes in, I ask Chelsea if she wants to give me my closing line. Interestingly enough, that last line is given about three months later. I call Chelsea in November to see how her time in New York was. As just about every 15.
New Zealander does, she has fallen in love with the place. After spending three short yet packed weeks with friends old and new, she says that she is set on returning. “I have friends there, I’m being encouraged by people... it’s not a pipe dream, it’s a real option.” A real option, as she is in talks with those that musicians want to be in talks with. “I’m not bound by anyone... there are people that are helping me.” Once again, I ask for that last line – the summation of an up-and-coming Kiwi artist, freshly back from America and set to return to see what the future holds. “I don’t exactly know what to say, but I can tell you what I’ve learned... meeting strangers is the best and worst thing ever. I met so many cool strangers from being lonely.” I kind of feel a bit gypped. If I’m completely honest, it’s not the summation I wanted. Where was the well structured art-school educated wisdom? Where was the metaphor and the irony? Perhaps they were lost in New York, stripped away to make way for a more ambiguous concept that Chelsea is now aiming for. Or perhaps I’m a perfectionist.
Article by Matt Monk Photography by Alex Mcvinnie Makeup Artist: Madeline North Photographic Assistant: Kerry Won
Artwork by Henrietta Harris
THE SAMI SISTERS -three times the charm-
Article by Olivia Young Photography by Florence Noble
Was it love, heartbreak or perhaps daily melodramas that brought the very talented Sami Sisters together in more than just a sibling capacity? It’s midweek and lunchtime, Auckland is grey and everyone is running late; running from the street and the drizzle into Vinyl cafe. “Flat whites must always be with trim,” Priya sings out, as she eyes the ginger slice I am eating. The Sami Sisters’ story unravels with ease as two of the three, Priya and Anji, chat freely about what makes their lives tick. The third, older sister Madeleine (the comedian of them all) is based in London at the moment pursuing her other career. They aren’t quiet about who they are, which can sometimes be a bit awkward when you’re interviewing artists. Hailing from Irish and Indian descent, the three sisters claim that that Auckland is their home, but the best curries are definitely those their mother makes. Immediately taken by the sisters, we hedge all interview questions and head down a far less structured route. The sisters’ love for music rolls off their tongues. “We just want play and get as many gigs as possible and do what we love,” they say. 20.
Having opened and played alongside artists such as Rufus Wainwright and the Opensouls, this year saw sisters self-funding their debut album, Happy Heartbreak. They sure do have a way of lightening up such a dismal theme. The sisters blend self-taught musicality into layers of their own lives; they also credit the long list of talented artists that have assisted with their latest project. Among these names are Ed Cake (Bressa Creeting Cake, Pie Warmer), Jeremy Toy (She’s So Rad, Opensouls), Tchad Blake (Sheryl Crow, The Black Keys), Chip Matthews (Homebrew, Opensouls), Isaac Aesili and Ryan McPhun (The Ruby Suns). Turning to the subject of record labels, I ask the sisters for their take, and how the drive to get signed impacts them as artists. “It’s like a Yellow Brick Road, you know, when you 21.
have all the connections and networks; it’s all laid out for you and you head straight for the wizard of Oz.” They maintain a determined outlook on how they can do it with or without that security. After two years of applications for the NZ on Air grants, they have recently been successful at reciving a substantial offering. But they want that self-gratification, to know that they have struggled with day jobs and the heavy administrative element of producing music to a high level. “Yeah, you learn more... actually feel cool, I guess.” Hoping to use the funds for a single release for ‘How Did We Fall Apart’ in December, they are also ecstatic to finally have funding behind them to create a video for ‘Oh Boy’ which will give them both creative freedom and a chance to pay the artists contributing. The Sami Sisters’ growing body of work builds
on influences from the ‘20s right through to modern day pop. They would like to tighten their song writing capabilities; they talk of their relationship as siblings as providing a rich environment and something that strengthens them as artists. They clearly have drive, and they speak often of the future. Although Madeleine has been developing her career out of New Zealand, all three of the sisters remain determined to push on with gigging and touring. Recently, nominations for three awards at the Aotearoa Film and Television Awards will see Madeleine back in November. The Sami Sisters have confirmed a four-show tour with the reputable singer/songwriter and lead man from acclaimed band Split Enz, Tim Finn, in late 2011. This will be com-
plimented by extra shows in November in Raglan at the Yot Club and New Plymouth at Matinee. I ask – apart from the obvious, what does Tim’s music do for them? “Tim has been a staple, a huge idol and one of the best songwriters,” the girls agree. “It is amazing what you can do with so little,” Priya notes. This tour will give the sisters a huge boost heading into summer and provide them with more of the exposure that they deserve. In their hot single ‘Oh Boy’ they sing, “Take your time / Take as long as you need / I’ll be fine, I’ll be fine, I’ll be fine,” and yes, these sisters will be more than fine. I for one will certainly be heading to their Auckland show at the Mercury Theatre.
Article by Olivia Young Photograhy by Florence Noble 22.
KIMBRA -no cause to settle down-
Article by Skye Pathare Photography by Owen Behan
As Kimbra Johnson animatedly describes the surprise party her friends threw for her recent 21st birthday, it’s all too easy to forget that she is on the cusp of international stardom – she’s so darn sweet. Pretty babeish too, and frighteningly talented. “I do have a tragic flaw, though,” she admits. “I’m a chronic perfectionist, which is why the album took four years to finish! But, you know, you never get another shot at making a first impression.” She won’t need to beg for second chances, because Vows – released in New Zealand on the 29th of August and across the ditch on the 2nd of September – is an accomplished, sonically experimental and beautiful debut. Vows explores the changes Kimbra experienced during the formative years of 17 to 21, with the most significant being the move to Melbourne from her hometown of Hamilton. “It’s been really crazy the last few years – settling in a new country, recording, networking, and making frequent trips to LA. Finally releasing the album has been quite cathartic,” Kimbra smiles. With track titles such as ‘Settle Down’ and ‘Plain Gold Ring’, my curiosity was piqued: is getting hitched on the cards? “No – the album name connotes commitment in its broadest sense. A lot of the songs are about making or breaking promises – especially to yourself – and the term ‘vows’ encapsulates that.” Vows is tricky to pigeonhole into a genre, but indie pop is probably your best bet. “Left-of-centre pop has always appealed to me, because you have the chance to alter people’s conceptions of pop music,” Kimbra explains. “It’s all about playing with the formula... with ‘Settle Down’, you think you’ve got it down in the first couple of minutes but then we muck around with it a bit.” This “mucking around” – vocal layering and the 26.
incorporation of heavy percussive elements with syncopation – serves to create a distinctly progressive sound, complex and rich. The album is full of surprises. Sitting alongside more commercially viable tracks such as ‘Settle Down’ and the ultra catchy ‘Cameo Lover’ are romantic ‘80s ballads with a strong Prince influence, a soulful and disarmingly intimate rendition of Nina Simone’s ‘Plain Gold Ring’, fleeting glimpses of Motown and hip hop, and generous dollops of jazz and r&b. “It’s an eclectic selection because I’ve always listened to a wide range of music and been attracted to ‘schizophrenic’ artists,” Kimbra laughs. I ask her if debut albums are allowed to be a tad schizo – after all, you have a clean slate and more creative license, because there’s nothing to build on or live up to. “Yeah... your first album’s bound to be a mixed bag because you’re trying to discover and develop a sound you feel defines you, which is not so easy.” Having recently signed with Warner Bros. Records, Kimbra spent some time in the States with producer Mike Elizondo (famous for his decade-long collaboration with Dr. Dre), grooming her debut for its 2012 American release. While the marketing prowess of this label is a major asset, Vows was produced independently. “It was just me recording songs in my bedroom and asking for help when I needed it, mostly in the final stages,” Kimbra explains. This help was provided by producers François Tétaz (Gotye, Bertie Blackman) and Australian hip hop export M-Phazes (Amerie, Slaughterhouse).
The former’s CV is particularly impressive; he’s been lauded for creating ethereal soundscapes and scores for a diverse portfolio of clients and adds a filmic quality to the album. “He told me to envision my songs as movies, with clear narratives. I had to think of instruments as characters... it pushed me out of my comfort zone to work with someone so visually focussed and non-traditional.” The latter’s contribution elevates tracks such as the flirtatious (and personal favourite) ‘Call Me’ to levels reminiscent of Mary. J. Blige’s earliest work. Kimbra, with her sensual, honeyed vocals and subversive approach to pop, has been likened to several powerhouse female artists: Amy Winehouse, Björk, Janelle Monae, Florence Welch, and, almost inevitably, Nina Simone. “It’s in our nature to want to categorise and draw comparisons, isn’t it?” she muses. “It’s humbling when people compare me to musicians I respect. You never consciously channel a particular singer, but I guess their influences do become apparent.” I ask if she agrees with the postmodernist view that nothing is ‘original’ anymore, nor is it required to be. “Perhaps. There’s this quote by C.S Lewis which is probably the best advice I’ve taken on board, musically and personally: ‘No man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth, you will become original without ever having noticed it.’” Truth-telling is what Kimbra does best– having penned all but one of the tracks from Vows, her lyrics are unsparingly 30.
honest and emotionally resonant. ‘Settle Down’ was written by Kimbra at the age of 16, and recorded using “some old eighttrack” she stole from her high school. It’s a witty critique of 1950s America and the expectations women have of married life: “I’ll love you well / I wanna settle down / It’s time to bring you down / On just one knee for now / Let’s make our vows.” Engaging and vaguely menacing, this song nabbed the top prize in the Pop/Top 40 category of the International Songwriting Competition. Kimbra was also awarded the coveted Vanda & Young Songwriting Award for Vows’ second single, ‘Cameo Lover’. So what does she employ as lyrical fodder? “Real life! I also like to read books about theology and philosophy, to get ideas.” Reading widely serves to buttress and universalise Kimbra’s songwriting, which explains the genuine connection forged between her work and her audience. This connection is particularly evident during live performances, which she considers the most “fun and exhilarating” part of her job. “Awards are nice, but what I find way more rewarding is a stranger approaching me after a gig to say, ‘hey, that song really spoke to me’.” Kimbra’s schedule will be hectic over the next few months. She’s embarking on a sold-out Australian tour and playing at major festivals such as Falls and Parklife, before returning to the States to refine her new album. I speak with her during a whirlwind trip home to promote Vows, perform at the Kathryn Wilson show for NZ Fashion Week, and catch up with her parents in Hamilton. 31.
“I enjoyed living there as I was pretty outdoorsy,” Kimbra says. “And I don’t think its size and geographical isolation is a bad thing. It makes you feel like there’s something to prove and it makes your music more unique.” So if Hamilton was the coolest place to grow up, what would have been the coolest time? “The ‘70s I think! The fashion, the concerts, and the stuff on the radio was the best – Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix...” If popular music peaked in the ‘70s, I ask, then what hope is there for the future? Is anything our generation produces truly transcendent? “Well, I think it’s all changing a bit now. Look at Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’, which has topped the charts in countries as diverse as Australia and Belgium. It’s great to see something so emotional and reflective beat out the club tracks.” Kimbra’s captivating cameo in this song, I might add, was conducive to its popularity. This young artist is well aware that flexibility breeds longevity, and Vows possesses a maturity and timelessness which belies Kimbra’s age and relative inexperience. Throw in a strong work ethic and a charming personality, and you’ve got the formula for success, both global and longitudinal. Watch this space!
Article by Skye Pathare Photography by Owen Behan Stylist: Yeshe Dawa Hair Stylist: Danny Pato Makeup Artist: Samuel Gove Photographic Assistant: Reuben Theobald Styling Assistant: Emma Shaw
Artwork by Henrietta Harris
Article sponsored by
The Golden Dawn
SARAH HOUBOLT Tavern of Power -All Things Weird and WonderfulArticle by Anna Schlotjes Photography by Greta Gotlieb
Watching circus performer Sarah Houbolt wrapped gracefully around an aerial ring, twisting and twirling with all the ease of a ballerina, you can’t help but become enthralled by this exceptional woman. A former professional swimmer, Houbolt admits to having had a “big life”, made all the bigger by her involvement and passion for performance and the arts. Taking up circus performance shortly after her career in the world of water ended ensured that Houbolt was definitely ready for something different. “Swimming is so competitive whereas circus is so cooperative and creative – that was the appeal for me,” she says. Used to the “intense physicality” involved in the swimming world, Houbolt naturally took to the weird and wonderful disciplines of circus performing such as silks, trapeze and aerial rings, and the rest, as they say, is history.
“... New Zealand is like my rehab, my inspiration and now my home.” In 2009, Houbolt embarked on a quest for a solace of sorts, uprooting herself from her homeland of Australia, and moving to the greener pastures of New Zealand. Having met Eve Gordan, producer and director of The Dust Palace Theatre Company in 2007, Houbolt established an initial tie to the New Zealand aerial arts and theatre scene. So in 2009 when Gordan asked her to be part of her Burlesque As You Like It show, Houboult was only too happy to book a one-way plane ticket, a decision which has impacted her life in many wonderful ways. “Moving to New Zealand has given me the scope and space to commit to a career of freelance performance… New Zealand is like my rehab, my inspiration and now my home.” 36.
Since moving here two years ago, Houbolt has successfully thrown herself into promoting herself and her work as a freelance artist. “In terms of performance and entertainment work, I have the skills and am constantly building my networks. In terms of promotion of myself, I’m not shy in doing this. Must be the Dutch - Australian blood in me!”
“... Uniqueness is a strength and something to be valued. ” Another plus to come out of Houbolt’s move to New Zealand was being welcomed into the Auckland art scene. “I really like the arts scene in Auckland. People are pushing boundaries here, and are not afraid to experiment with inter-disciplinary performance.” Being partial sighted herself, this experimentation process is particularly close to Houbolts heart as it’s something she deems very important and enthusiastically endorses in her own performing life. “I’m a member of the International Guild of Disabled Artists and Performers. However, I am a performer first and foremost. I find the disability label as a primary identity card really unhelpful in the arts scene because it distracts or blocks people from hearing my pragmatic communication about either my specific needs, or no specific needs, within a project.” Houbolt’s views on this matter permeate her performance philosophy, enabling her to communicate her thoughts and feelings through her art form. “I think I get the message across that uniqueness is a strength and something to be valued. Art comes from 37.
someone’s unique thoughts, inspirations and proactive creation. So let’s accept uniqueness more broadly, celebrate it and use it to our economic and creative advantage.” Houbolt is enthusiastic about the many ways in which circus performing has enriched her life. “I advocate for circus as way for young people to develop positive risk-taking skills, confidence, self-worth, trust, body awareness, cooperation and creativity through use of the physical body.” She also strongly enforces the ways in which circus encourages tolerance and inclusiveness of all kinds of people. “The culture of circus globally is also quite inclusive of diversity and uniqueness, and is supportive of everyone’s hidden talents as it focuses on the ‘use what you’ve got’ principle.” Being involved in circus and performing arts has given Houbolt a world of excitement and creativity that makes everyday worth looking forward to. At the moment she has many exciting endeavors pending. “I’m planning a trip to New York in the next year or so. I have a couple of theatre projects that are in initial development stages, and a short film project scheduled for early next year. Over summer I hope to get some more corporate and entertainment work for my acrobatics, aerials, hula-hoops and fire acts. And still currently looking for a New Year’s Eve gig!” Thanks to a passionate affiliation with the arts, and an internal determination to live life to the fullest, Houbolts life is full of all kinds of weird and wonderful, which she happily shares with the world. Article by Anna Schlotjes Photograhy by Greta Gotlieb
Article sponsored by
-TAKE A LONG, HARD LOOK AT YOURSELF AND THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU’VE DONE-
Gary Gotlieb Barrister
Article by Will Pollard Self-portrait by Henrietta Harris
WP: “You’re quite quirky though aren’t you?” HH: “No, no, very serious… all the time.”
Henrietta Harris is busy. That’s not bad for a young artist painting watercolours in the long shadow of a global economic collapse. “I just did the Kurt Vile poster,” she says, “and I’m doing the poster for tUnE-yArDs.” You might not have met her before – but you’re more than likely to have seen her work. It would have been hard to walk down K Road any time in the last five years without seeing a poster somewhere with her stamp on it. I want to call her “something of a darling of the local music scene”. “Okay,” she says. Something of a darling of the local music scene, she has made album covers and t-shirts alongside the many gig posters she has produced. She has worked with bands both here and overseas, including (I note this with a touch of nostalgia) The Mint Chicks.
“Someone has asked me that before and I was like, no. God, shut up.” It seems only natural then that for the 30th anniversary this November of one of our most iconic local music institutions – Flying Nun – it is Harris the label turned to. She designed them a new logo, t-shirt, album cover and even a one-off beer bottle. “I just ended up doing everything,” she says. “They’re very funny to work with – they go off on so many tangents and stuff takes hours longer, but you kind of don’t really mind ‘cause they’re so nice.” The steady stream of commercial work means that these days Harris can 41.
afford to be a full-time artist. She admits it’s still stressful paying the rent, but knowing that she has to “work really hard at it” is in any event the closest Harris comes to having a philosophy behind her art. “Someone has asked me that before and I was like, no. God, shut up.”
There’s something very human about this ever-present ennui. And her work is also created (at least to begin with) using fairly traditional techniques. This shows especially in the distinctive hand-drawn lettering style she has kept coming back to, despite trying computer fonts in the past.
Aside from the watercolour and gouache paintings she does, her works range from simple line drawings to oil paintings swathed in colour. She finds working with oils the hardest. “You can’t tell what it’s gonna look like until the last – it starts off looking good, then it looks crap and crap and crap and crap and then at the end you’re like, oh it’s good! There’s just hours of angst before it looks good… whereas with watercolour you can kind of tell what it’s going to look like the whole time.”
She has self-consciously kept herself included in her art, but until now she hasn’t placed herself at the centre of any of her work. When we meet, she is thinking about doing a self-portrait for the first time since she was twelve. As she declines the offer of another coffee in the interests of her nerves, I wonder: does having to paint herself make her nervous? It just doesn’t usually occur to her to do so, she explains. “For reference I’ve used my face and my hands and stuff but you can’t tell it’s me. “Egon Schiele did heaps [of self-portraits]… it’s really interesting that he saw himself as something he wanted to paint heaps you know – whereas I just cringe whenever I see a photo of myself.”
“I also like painting people looking really bored or confused.” She is perhaps best known for her portraits. And whatever the medium, these tend to be imbued with a certain mood; an undercurrent of feeling that is something like melancholia. Her figures rarely seem light-hearted despite the bright colours and often cartoon-like style in which they’re portrayed. Harris is pleased at this observation. “My favourite thing is feeling happy and sad at the same time – that’s the best mood ever – so I try, I try to portray that. I also like painting people looking really bored or confused.”
I wonder how the artist that likes painting strangers looking bored or confused will choose to depict herself? Just as long as it’s not quirky. Look out for Henrietta’s work alongside the photography of Sam Montgomery in a new show being organised for the end of this year. Article by Will Pollard Artwork featured throughout this issue was contributed by Henrietta Harris 42.
Artwork by Henrietta Harris
Articles by Andrew Tidball Courtesy of Cheese on Toast www.cheeseontoast.co.nz Illustrations by Sarah Larnach
Only In Dreams by Dum Dum Girls
This is the sophomore album from California’s Dum Dum Girls – which was originally the project name for Dee Dee Penny (real name Kristen Gundred) – only upon signing to Sub Pop did she expand the band to include three others. Their first record I Well Be was produced by Richard Gottehrer, who had previously worked with Blondie and The Raveonettes. With this new record there seems to be, and probably not surprisingly so, more cohesion with the band. Maybe most obviously and notably, on Only in Dreams, all four of the Dum Dums provide vocals. Only in Dreams succeeds in sounding like what a ‘60s girl-group would have made if left more to their own talented devices rather than being treated like puppets by male record company bosses. That said, Dum Dum Girls are much more than a photocopy from the sixties (Xerographic office photocopying was introduced by Xerox in 1959. I checked, so it is possible) – the likes of The Pretenders, Blondie and Mazzy Star can also be heard as references here.
The songs on Only in Dreams are written after the passing of Dee Dee’s mother and very much deal with the subject matter of missing and longing, not just that of a departed loved one, but also time spent away from your lover; Dee Dee and her husband, Crocodiles’ Brandon Welchez, are often separated for long periods of time due to touring schedules. In songs like ‘Heartbeat’, ‘Wasted Away’, and ‘Teardrops on My Pillow’, romantic heartbreak and death are interchanged with equally heartfelt sorrows. ‘Wasted Away’ thunders and clappers along like a psychotic locomotive as a quasi-title track. ‘Caught In One’ literally glides into your heart – “This year’s been a drag / Who knew it’d be so bad” – the simplest but most effective rhyming couplet I’ve heard in ages. If anyone wondered if Dum Dum Girls could make it past one glorious debut, the answer, with Only in Dreams, is a resounding, harmonic-wall-of-sound YES. 46.
Strange Mercy by St Vincent
St Vincent is solo artist Annie Clark, and Strange Mercy is her third album. I first developed a crush on her back in 2007 when she released Marry Me, and I was lucky enough to interview her then. Her sophomore effort in 2009, Actor, was a solid and darker continuation; less coy and cutesy, and with more danger. Annie Clark takes Strange Mercy further down the darker path, opening with something akin to an eerie cross between Björk and NiN with ‘Chloe in the Afternoon’ – floating bubbles of pop are shot at with machine guns. And it feels like extremities are what Annie is enjoying playing with on this album. First single ‘Cruel’ comes with a glorious pop hook, a majestic 1940s Hollywood movie orchestral sweep and a downright dirty guitar riff all in one song. This sonic aesthetic continues into ‘Cheerleader’, with its driving punches like a tap dripping at night when it’s too cold to get out of bed to remedy the situation (in a good way, of course). Strange Mercy is an exciting continuation in St Vincent’s records; where Actor began to acknowledge her darker side, in Strange Mercy she feels like she’s fully embracing it. It’s a pleasant veneer presented over dark themes. For the first minute or so of the album midpoint and title track, it’s like she’s letting you in on her softer side, the side you thought you might marry during her first album – but by two-thirds in you realise she’ll boil your bunny rabbit and serve it to you for dinner. This might either make you definitely want to marry her or run away as fast as you can – I guess that depends on how you roll. 47.
Artwork by Sarah Larnach
When you least expect it, elements of P-funk slip in; other times there’s definite Talking Head references being made; in others, moments of Bowie seep through. In ‘Dilettante’ there’s a nagging melody that recalls something that I can’t for the life of me put my finger on, despite my eager desire to do so. In ‘Hysterical Strength’ an ‘80s galloped Adam and the Ants-esque rhythm is engaged and then estranged. Strange Mercy is St Vincent’s darkest and most awesome moment thus far. Marry her and she’ll murder you while you sleep. What a way to go. 48.
Seasonal Glimpse by Saint Rupertsberg
I’m a sucker for upbeat all-girl harmonies, so Saint Rupertsberg from Wellington kind of had me not long into EP opener ‘Summer Jams’, with its solid bass line and piano lead and gorgeously sweet vocal harmonies. Repetition is their friend on this song, used for their evil plans to have you become addicted. ‘Coming Home’ continues with a bass and key drive and then about midway, after a hauntingly familair breakdown, they nail shit perfectly down with horns! OMFG, they just broke my heart. I’ve probably said this before, but I’ll probably never tire of juxtapositions of dark lyrics and ideas and an upbeat style; I think that’s why I’ve become an instant fan of this Wellington octet pop band. One really doesn’t need to go much further past ‘I’m So Fucking Goddam Lonely’ to understand that. Girl vocal harmonies. Keyboards. Killer basslines. Hand-claps. Flourishes. Shouting in tune. Horns. Everything. Sigh.
Artwork by Sarah Larnach
Happy Heartbreak by The Sami Sisters
The long-time-coming debut album from Madeline, Priya and Anji Sami is a collection of love songs brimming with charm, hooks and harmonies that melt icebergs. The Sami Sisters have been warming my proverbial cockles (yes, there are proverbs about my cockles, but seriously, don’t ask) this week. The subject of heartbreak has rarely sounded so joyous – immediately grabbing attention, the album opens with the Madeline-penned ‘Take It or Break It’ which melds elements of country-Americana with elements of Motown and a huge helping of, at the risk of using a phrase that might be taken as misogynistic, sass – especially when combined they deliver the title-inspiring chorus, a sentiment shared by anyone who has ever felt led on by another. ‘Cry’, written by Priya, opens with the ohoh-ohs of angels, and her pitch-perfect lead vocals sit gorgeously on the brink between fragility and immense strength. A banjo courtesy of Neil Watson battles subtly with 51.
the sisters’ harmonies which are then rallied by amazing brass moments from Isaac Aesili and Andrew Clouston. Third song in, and Anji takes the lead songwriting with ‘Not In Love’ – demonstrating, conclusively, that there is no distinction in the level of talents possessed by the three sisters. The defiance in the refrain here is wonderful. The locomotion of ‘Same Ol’ Same Ol’’ is a bed where the utterance of “mutha-fucking” has never sounded sweeter. And they close the record with a stripped back ‘On This Day’, the sisters’ three voices, accompanied by a solitary guitar, hum like a bubbling brook – a hymn, almost, of optimism and re-beginning. Beautiful.
CD Review Articles by Andrew Tidball Courtesy of Cheese on Toast www.cheeseontoast.co.nz Illustration by Sarah Larnach
Artwork by Henrietta Harris
Our cover girl is Chealse Jade of Watercolours. Inside The Sami Sisters, Henrietta Harris art, Kimbra, Sarah Houbolt performer and all the...